Zero Dark Thirty (****)

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Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow and Oscar-winning screenwriter Mark Boal take their newest effort, Zero Dark Thirty, to places I couldn’t have imagined.  Based on the events leading up to the killing of Osama bin Laden, the two display an impressive amount of control in the way the film is told and showcases some brilliant moments in filmmaking.  Zero Dark Thirty hooks you from minute one and just DOESN’T. LET. GO.  It’s one of the best pictures of the year!

Starring Jessica Chastain as the beautiful and insightful Maya, she smoothly yet fiercely pulls you through the film delivering her best performance of her career so far.  The film begins and ends with her and in the final scene, the Oscar mouths will be drooling.  Chastain inhabits and constructs a character from scratch, inserting ticks and beats that only sweetens the execution.  It’s one of the year’s best performances.  Point blank.

Accompanying her is the talented Jason Clarke, who’s scene-stealing and at times comedic turn level out a very emotionally and demanding film.  Kyle Chandler and Mark Strong make strong impressions in their minimal screen time and give even more evidence that Zero Dark Thirty is one of the best cast ensembles this year.

The true star of the film is Mark Boal whose research, detail, and magnetic dialogue stands as the writer’s finest work.  The film creates such inner, moral dilemma and this is coming from someone who saw the World Trade Center fall at the tender age of 17.  I witnessed evil that day and even with that, the film makes me ashamed to be an American.  Revenge can run deep but what we witness in the film, is not revenge.  You can’t fight fire with fire.  It’s a dilemma Boal puts forth and one that will follow the viewer long after the film’s end.  It’s pulse-pounding filmmaking and first-rate writing that should be studied for years to come.  Bigelow’s signature style doesn’t come into full effect until the final thirty minutes but it will blow your socks off.  The raid on the compound showcases heavenly camera work from Greig Fraser and commanding and sharp editing from Dylan Tichenor and William Goldenberg, two near sure-fire nominees for the Academy Awards.  A well-placed Alexandre Desplat score only adds to the marvel of those final moments.

Zero Dark Thirty is the best political thriller this decade.  Mark my words.  Oscar, your move!

  • Will

    For all the reasons you’ve stated, I think Bigelow is getting a directing nod. This is going to be a major awards player and one the critics groups could definitely get behind.

  • Chad Silvey

    Where in the world is Bigelow on your top 5 director favorites?!?!

    • Clayton Davis

      At #7….she could miss.